Starkville, Mississippi 39759
January 28, 1992

Dear Ken:

I enjoyed a two-hour talk with your Mama yesterday. We laughed and even sang a song together. It was a delight. Every once in a while I need my batteries re-charged so I give her a call.

She said you liked the poem"Grandma's Recipe." There are a couple of others I think you might enjoy, so I'm enclosing them. Both are attempts to set down, for my children, in a way Suzy (my youngest) suggested, those "snapshot memories" that we all have and which usually die with us.

I'm not a poet. Only those who love me and don't know better would ever accuse me of being one. The only A I ever got in creative writing was at Ms. College in 1982 when I was in the degree (nursing) program at the school and took creative writing as a diversion. It speaks for itself. One is about my killing the bantam chick when I was eight and one is about the day of Mama's funeral.

The poem about the chicken is "P-38." Geraldine remembered the episode and we laughed over it at her Mama's funeral, so I wrote the poem.

"Chinaberry Tree" is about me and my having cried and run off the front porch when Alberta told me Daddy wanted me to go live with Hattie Dearman, Daddy's "old maid" niece. She had said she would take me and "try to make a lady out of me." I cried to Alberta that "My Mama don't want me to be no lady! She don't want Hattie to get me." Daddy was going to separate us girls into different homes and raise the boys himself. "Chinaberry Tree" recounts what I did in protest and grief. The chinaberry tree was - and probably still is just off the end of 535 C Street, at the 6th Avenue side. Leo used to pull me out of the tree whenever he caught me up it. I used to climb it with a needle and thread and pick the tiny lavender blooms to string. I also collected green chinaberries as ammunition for my slingshot.

I have a couple of poems to write with you in them. I'll send them along when I do. You wouldn't know who I am if you saw me, but you would know we're related because the older I get, the more like Grandma I look. My hair is white and I'm not skinny anymore.

Hope I can see you again sometime. Time has played a disappearing act; you're supposed to be a little boy! Are you a grandpa yet? I have six grandkids. They're a joy.

Your Mama is precious to me. I've always, since Mama died, thought of where Willie Mae is, as home. I remember you fondly, Joan

Grandma's Recipe

(The true account of the short life and sad death of a patriotic bantam chick in 1942. She was one of a trio. My brothers and I named them after airplanes: P-38, P-40, and P - something or other. Our brother was in the Army fighting for his country and we thought that was the least we could do. P-38 was mine. I do not know what became of the other two, but I suspect they grew up and were eaten in their prime.)

Chinaberry Tree